New Bern is a small city in North Carolina that is one of the best to visit in the state. It is hard to beat the rich history, welcoming Southern culture, and charming activities that New Bern has to offer. Each time we visit, we uncover more and more things to do in New Bern.
If you’re seeking the finest experiences in North Carolina’s Inner Banks region, look no further than New Bern, a charming place brimming with amiable locals and fantastic attractions.
Whether you are visiting for a weekend, or a day trip from Raleigh or Rocky Mount, here are the best things to do in New Bern!
The Best Things to Do in New Bern
1. Union Point Park
- Address: 210 E Front St, New Bern (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Sunday: 6:00 am -11:00 pm
With six acres of lush green grass surrounded by water, Union Point Park offers an opportunity to take a break and relax after a day out shopping in New Bern’s historic downtown district. The Park’s Gazebo is the best spot for a view of the waterfront, where the Neuse and Trent rivers meet.
Visitors will find walkways surrounded by grassy terrain, picnic tables, a pier for fishing, BBQ grills, a small playground, and two boat launches for those that want to indulge in water-based activities. It is a great spot to enjoy an early sunset walk or a morning boat ride.
2. Picnic at Lawson Creek Park
- Address: 1309 Country Club Rd, New Bern (GPS)
- Hours: Monday -Sunday: 6:00 pm – 10:00 am
The Lawson Creek Park spans about 140 acres and offers the perfect mix of water, grassland, and wildlife for visitors to explore. Located just west of Tryon Palace on the Trent River, it’s a great place to relax after a tour of the famous Tryon Palace.
The Park has three fishing piers, a walkway with BBQ grills and picnic tables, two boat launches, and two soccer fields. The walking trail, stretching 8 miles across gravel, grass, and wooden plank walkways, also offers scenic views.
The Park is popular with the town’s residents, and it is also the favored site for New Bern’s annual 4th of July fireworks display.
3. Shop in Downtown New Bern
One of the best things to do in New Bern is take a stroll downtown. The downtown area of New Bern is incredibly charming and home to plenty of quaint riverside restaurants, cafes, boutique stores, and historic attractions. The area has many antique shops, historic churches, museums, art galleries, and meticulously kept gardens for tourists to explore.
Those looking to partake in outdoor adventures should stop at Surf, Wind, and Fire to stock up on an amazing selection of outdoor gear. Another shop that stands out is Black Cat Shoppe where visitors can buy souvenirs that are quirky, unusual, and funny.
4. African-American Heritage Trail
- Address: Craven Terrace- 601 Roundtree St, New Bern (GPS)
The African American Heritage Trail is a self-guided tour that is part of an initiative to uncover New Bern’s African American history. It is a collection of 10 different points of interest located within the Craven Terrace and Dryborough neighborhoods of New Bern.
Each point of interest has information panels that provide details on significant historic events, famous people, and places that are a part of New Bern’s African American heritage.
These insightful panels shed light on how the town and its African American community were impacted during different stages of US history. Visitors can find a copy of the trail/map online.
5. Visit Christ Episcopal Church
- Address: 320 Pollock St, New Bern (GPS)
- Hours: Monday -Thursday: 9:00 am -12:00 pm, Friday: 9:00 am -12:00 pm,
Sunday: 7:30 am – 1:00 pm, Saturday: Closed
Originally built in 1871 on a church that was built even earlier in 1824, Christ Episcopal Church mixes history and architectural beauty to the point of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
The building’s architecture is Gothic Revival and visitors are treated to an entry through an actual ‘castle-esque’ entrance tower, complete with a spire. The Church is also home to a five-piece communion service, a gift from King George II. It comprises a chalice, paten, two flagons, and a basin for receiving offerings.
6. Tour New Bern’s Notable Churches & Cemeteries
- Address: First Baptist Church- 239 Middle St, New Bern (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Thursday: 8:30 am -5:00 pm, Friday: 8:30 am -1:00pm,
Sunday: 8:30 am -12:00 pm, Saturday: Closed,
New Bern is home to many other beautiful churches, such as the First Missionary Baptist Church on Cypress Street, and the First Baptist Church on Middle Street and Church Alley. Both churches are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and have equally splendid architecture.
Other historic churches in New Bern are just as beautiful, and there are even some ancient cemeteries that are worth visiting. With New Bern being the second oldest town in New Bern, visiting these historic churches and cemeteries doesn’t cost anything and is a great way to learn more about the local culture and history.
7. Visit the Historic New Bern Battlefield Park
- Address: 300 Battlefield Trail, New Bern (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Sunday: 6:00 am – 8:00 pm
This memorial park is partially built on the site of the American Civil War Battle of New Bern, fought on 14 March 1862. It was here that nearly 1000 soldiers laid down their lives, all in the name of war. New Bern Battlefield Park has a large concrete battle map, 36 interpretive panels, and includes a free audio tour app.
Guided tours are also available which cost about $5 per person for Historical Society members and $10 per person for non-members. The New Bern Historical Society, the body behind the management of the Park, has done an incredible job in preserving the area and keeping it in pristine condition.
8. Tour Of Tryon Palace
- Address: 529 S Front St, New Bern (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sunday: 12:00 pm -5:00 pm
- Cost of Admission: For ticket information per event, click here.
One of New Bern’s most iconic landmarks, Tryon Palace is North Carolina’s First Capitol building, first commissioned by William Tryon, in the mid-1700s as a residence and office. Famed architect John Hawks worked on the Georgian-style structure, which was designed and completed in 1770.
Tryon Palace held an important place during colonialism, the Revolution War, and other historical events. A full one-day tour pass costs $20 for adults and $10 for kids aged 6 to 14.
There are cheaper passes that include limited access to just the grounds and gardens and not the actual Palace. Children under 5, get free entry, and all passes include a visit to the military encampments.
9. North Carolina History Center
- Address: 529 S Front St, New Bern (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sunday: 12:00 pm -5:00 pm
- Cost of Admission: For ticket informations per event, click here.
Located almost on the same site as Tryon Palace, the North Carolina History Center has revolutionized interactive museum experiences with its rotating exhibitions, artifacts, and interactive historical activities.
Many visitors begin their tour of Tryon Palace with the North Carolina History Center. There are also regular exhibitions, concerts, and lectures throughout the year. The Center also holds the distinction of being a LEED Certified building, making it one of the “greenest” public buildings in the country.
10. Visit The New Bern Firemen’s Museum
- Address: 420 Broad St, New Bern (GPS)
- Hours: Wednesday – Saturday: 10:00 am -3:00 pm, Sunday – Tuesday: Closed
- Cost of Admission: Adults: $7.00, Students: $4.00, Children 5 or under: Free
Another noteworthy location in New Bern, just two blocks away from Tryon Park, is the New Bern Firemen’s Museum. This Museum, established in 1955, is a great tribute to the brave firemen that serve this country and is a great way for both kids and adults to learn about the history of the profession.
Visitors also get to meet Fred the fire horse! There are many interactive exhibits and authentic memorabilia, making for a fun experience for the entire family. Admission is $7 for adults and $4 for students. Children under 5 get to enter for free.
11. Find All Of New Bern’s Bear Statues
A uniquely charming quality of New Bern is the various bear statues spread across the town. A lot of tourists even dedicate time to find all the statues. It makes for a fun and interesting way to explore the town in its entirety and find all its hidden gems and picturesque spots.
The statues are a homage to the Swiss town that New Bern is named after, Bern. While the bears that roam around Bern may be real, the bear statues of New Bern are a lot cuter. Even if you’re not actively looking for them, try to find as many statues as you can during your visit and make each one a cool Instagram moment.
12. Visit The Birthplace of Pepsi
- Address: 256 Middle St, New Bern (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 6: 00 pm
Arguably, one of the most entertaining entries on this list, The Birthplace of Pepsi is a must-visit location!
The historic town of New Bern is perhaps most famous for being the place where Caleb Bradham invented Pepsi-Cola in 1898. To celebrate 100 years since the invention of the iconic beverage, ‘The Birthplace of Pepsi’ was opened.
Visitors can step back in time, and even enjoy a fountain Pepsi – the way it was originally served almost a century ago! There’s no entry fee, but you’ll need to pay for any goods you buy. The fountain Pepsi costs only 75 cents though making for a cheap and immersive experience.
13. Camp At Croatan National Forest
- Address: Havelock, NC (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Friday: 8:00 am – 4:30 pm, Saturday & Sunday: Closed
North Carolina is home to a few national forests and the one closest to New Bern (about 10 miles south) is Croatan National Forest. Known as the “only true coastal forest in the East”, visitors will be able to enjoy 160,000 acres of pine forests and diverse ecosystems.
Visitors can hike, fish, camp, BBQ, go boating, and enjoy the pristine wilderness of the Park and the serenity it brings.
Admission to Croatan National Forest is free of charge and you’ll only need to pay fees if you use any amenities such as the developed campgrounds during your stay here.
14. Visit The Zing Zumm Children’s Museum of Jacksonville
- Address: 625 New Bridge St, Jacksonville (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Friday: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sunday: 12:00 pm- 5:00 pm,
- Cost of Admission: For ticket prices, click here.
Another unique experience close to New Bern in the city of Jacksonville is the Zing Zumm Children’s Museum of Jacksonville. A fully interactive and educational experience, this museum can be great fun for kids aged up to 10 years and aims to engage their minds and foster curiosity.
This is all done while making the entire experience feel just like playtime. Admission is $8 plus tax for adults and children aged 1 and above. Children under the age of 1 have free entry and there’s lots for them to do as well.
15. A Day Trip To Jacksonville
If you’re visiting Jacksonville for Zing Zumm Children’s Museum, then might as well make a day trip out of it. It’s only a 45-minute drive from New Bern and there’s a lot to do in town. In addition to some great restaurants, there is also Walton’s Distillery where tours and tasting on Mondays to Saturdays from 10 AM to 4 PM are free of charge.
Jacksonville is also home to Camp Lejeune Memorial Gardens where you can pay your respects to our fallen heroes while enjoying the scenic natural surroundings.
12 Fun Things to Do in Jacksonville, NC
16. Unwind at Atlantic Beach
A barrier island bordered by the Bogue Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic Beach, was formed in the early 1930s as a vacation getaway specifically designed for black families, given the racial tensions of the time. Nicknamed “the Black Pearl”, today, Atlantic Beach is a popular vacation destination with a rich heritage of black-owned businesses.
In addition to having some beautiful beaches, the town also offers plenty to do, with water sports, music festivals, Beach Music Pub Crawls, and lots of great restaurants to try out.
16 Best Things to Do in Atlantic Beach, NC
17. Visit Fort Macon State Park
- Address: 2303 E Fort Macon Rd, Atlantic Beach, NC (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Sunday: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
- Cost of Admission: For ticket rates, click here.
Spanning over 400 acres, Fort Macon State Park pales in comparison to Croatan National Forest in terms of size. However, it more than makes up for that in its recreational activities and attractions. The Park is absolutely beautiful and has quite an interesting history.
On its borders is Beaufort Inlet, a site frequently targeted by pirates in the 18th century. It was also where, in June 1718, Blackbeard’s infamous ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, ran aground. There is plenty to do here with museum exhibits, hiking trails, fishing spots, and beautiful beaches keeping visitors entertained for hours on end.
18. Day Trip to Beaufort
Beaufort is a picturesque town located about 60 miles away from New Bern and is definitely worth the visit, even if it’s just for a day trip. The town offers charming beauty and history, with boutiques lined with one another and the Beaufort Historic Site that many visitors love. After checking out this North Carolina town we recommend enjoying a delicious Beaufort restaurant!
You can also check out the wildlife at the Rachel Carson Reserve which includes river otters, gray foxes, marsh rabbits, bottlenose dolphins, and even herds of wild horses! Visitors can also take time to visit the North Carolina Maritime Museum for some local culture and history. You’ll also find many boutique restaurants and cafes.
22 BEST Things to Do in Beaufort, NC
19. Dine Out in New Bern
- Price: $$
- Cuisine: American Restaurant
- Address: Baker’s Kitchen – 227 Middle St, New Bern (GPS)
- Website: See menu
Foodies will love New Bern for its delectable local cuisines and dining options. A famous local dish that you simply have to try is the Dutch Potatoes at Baker’s Kitchen. They only cost $3.50 and are simply delicious. Breakfast at this spot is quite popular as well.
Another great place to dine is at the Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant which offers some of the best breakfast and brunch in New Bern. When it comes to fine dining Chelsea and Cypress Hill offer scrumptious delicacies and fine wine that make for a memorable romantic evening by the riverfront.
20. Enjoy the Festivals!
One of the best things to do in New Bern is attend a festival! No matter the season this city holds many annual events! April is the time for the Spring Homes and Garden Tour, where owners of historical homes open their doors to the public. In September, there’s the Annual Chili Festival held in Havelock.
This two-day festival is filled with judging competitions not just for chili, but also chicken wings and other popular snack foods.
October is time for Mumfest, which is by far the most popular annual event in New Bern. With more than 90,000 visitors each year, the festival celebrates our beautiful mothers with live music and street food.
Plan For Your Trip to the South!
- We like to use VRBO when searching for vacation apartment rentals and Booking.com when searching for hotels.
- See our favorite cooler for the road!
- Get Around: We suggest renting a car for traveling the Carolinas. Check Prices on RentalCars.com
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always Allbirds.
- Check out our favorite North Carolina Souvenir!
- Fly For Free: Turn your spending into airline miles and points with travel credit cards (that’s what we do!). See our favorite travel credit cards.